From 2000, I lived in Sydney for nearly four years. It was only last decade, but sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago...
When I first moved there, I hated it. I found it shallow, noisy, bright, vain and self-obsessed, and I couldn't find my own rhythm in amongst the pace. I'd never lived in a city before - I'd always found myself by the sea or in the countryside in small communities - so to move to Sydney was quite a big deal and lifestyle change. I found the lack of community, the disregard for each other and the focus on money and status to be strange and silly and petty, but what I found most difficult was the the grime, the constant sound of traffic, and the lack of stars. With the beautiful bright lights of the skyline came the loss of the night, the stars and the sounds of the ocean.
In the end, I found ways to love Sydney, and I remain smitten. I love the harbour, I love the bridges, I love the parks, the pools, the buildings. I love the busy middle of the CBD, the plaques in the footpath indicating the Tank Stream. I love the mountains so close by, I love the beaches separated by rocky cliffs, with that grainy, yellow sand that sticks in granules to my skin (so different to the powdery white sand I grew up on). I love the houses and buildings in the inner-city - Potts Point, Glebe, Leichhardt, Surry Hills, Paddington... I love that when I return I can slip back into my own version of Sydney where I know the streets, the buses, the train lines, the shops, the cafes, the restaurants, the paths, the markets, the shortcuts. It feels comfortable and familiar.
But most of all, I love the friends I have made down there, and each of whom I still miss every day. I love going back and meeting them around the city for drinks or to visit them in their homes. I love that they welcome back so warmly and are constantly searching for ways to draw me back to visit and to stay. They keep the city warm, alive and familiar for me - they keep it as a place that I love and know.
I'm off to Sydney today for a couple of weeks. I'm staying in the city and then heading up the coast to one of the beautiful northern beaches to spend a week with a few of my friends. I will get to visit the gallery, the library, walk the city streets, visit my darling Laura (and eat some cake for her birthday) and go for a run in Blackwattle Bay to admire my favourite bridge. And then I can spend a week up the coast by the beach drinking gin and tonics - drinking, talking cooking, eating, swimming, drinking, talking, drinking, eating, swimming, laughing. In my original plan, I was able to take a board, but it has not panned out to be so. Perhaps it's for the best though; it might keep me less distracted for my friends. But then, perhaps, I'll find a board to use while I'm there. It's funny how these things work out.
Anyway, I'm off to pack and get myself to the airport. See you soon, Sydney!